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God Can’t Stay Away

First Reading: Hosea 14:2-10

Thus says the LORD:
Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God;
you have collapsed through your guilt.
Take with you words,
and return to the LORD;
Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity,
and receive what is good, that we may render
as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.
Assyria will not save us,
nor shall we have horses to mount;
We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’
to the work of our hands;
for in you the orphan finds compassion.”
I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols?
I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.
“I am like a verdant cypress tree”—
because of me you bear fruit!

Let him who is wise understand these things;
let him who is prudent know them.
Straight are the paths of the LORD,
in them the just walk,
but sinners stumble in them.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 51:3-4, 8-9, 12-13, 14 AND 17

R. (17b) My mouth will declare your praise.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. My mouth will declare your praise.
Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart,
and in my inmost being you teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
R. My mouth will declare your praise.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. My mouth will declare your praise.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R. My mouth will declare your praise.

Gospel: Matthew 10:16-23

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”

NAB

DEV_JU8

For the last week or so, the Church has been reading through the book of the prophet Hosea. God uses Hosea’s marriage to an unfaithful wife to symbolize the unfaithfulness of His people, Israel. Their sin has been great, their sacrifices can’t atone for it, and so God punishes them. Just as Hosea strips his wife of all she has and casts her away, God turns His back on his people.

But this chastisement does not last forever. God can’t stay away. He is a true and faithful lover, He is merciful and compassionate, and He loves us with an everlasting love. And so today, in the final chapter of Hosea, we receive an invitation to repentance. “Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God.”

I love the book of Hosea, because I see in myself the unfaithful bride. Jesus Christ, my bridegroom, has given himself to me on the cross, and over and over again in the Eucharist. And I at times have returned His love very poorly: with my selfishness, my affection for material goods, my lack of faith. We all at times play the unfaithful bride. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” (Is 53:6.) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Ro 3:23.)

And like the unfaithful bride, I am receiving grace that I do not deserve. Jesus is drawing me back to Himself again and again. He is the lover that can’t stay away. “I will heal their defection, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily.”

Today we receive an invitation to repentance. No matter where we are coming from, we are invited to turn from sin, receive the grace of forgiveness, and have our relationship with God restored. I think it’s beautiful that the Psalm paired with this passage is Psalm 51, a Psalm of repentance. “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.”

Where have you been unfaithful to God? How is He drawing you back to Himself? Use the words of Psalm 51 as a start to repentance today.

photo credit

Anna Coyne is a wife, mother, musician, knitter, gardener, and convert to the Catholic faith.  Read more about her here.

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